After welcoming a new baby, it can be easy to neglect your own well-being as all of your attention, time, and energy shifts towards caring for a newborn child.
It's important to remember that it's not selfish to prioritize your well-being, it's 100% necessary! Our body requires a little extra love and attention to heal during the postpartum period, and nutrition is everything. There's no need for tracking, weighing, or macros. For me, I'll be focusing on simple habits throughout the next few months to help my body heal, regain strength, and ensure adequate nutrition intake for me and my baby. Here's what I've been prioritizing:
#1: Adequate Protein Intake
I talk a lot about the importance of protein, whether or not you've just had a baby, to feel satiated, regulate hunger hormones, support muscle retention, and repair and build new tissues. This macronutrient becomes especially important postpartum as your body is healing and to supply your baby with essential amino acids for a healthy development while breastfeeding.
I can’t tell you how many clients I start working with that are under eating protein. Making and eating enough is hard work with newborns and kids in general, but it doesn’t leave you cranky, depleted, or weak - it fuels you and it makes all the difference.
Inadequate protein intake can lead to unstable blood sugar levels, decrease in energy, and can prevent postpartum moms from hitting their body composition goals. The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body mass. And if you are breastfeeding, it's recommended for protein intake to be on the higher end, around 1 gram per pound of body mass, as our bodies require extra protein to support a healthy milk supply.
As soon as you increase your protein intake, everything changes. You'll feel satiated after meals, you'll be able to hold onto muscle mass, you'll be able to go longer without constantly thinking about food.
What I'm Doing:
- Eating 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of goal body mass a day (140 grams a day)
- Starting the day with 30 grams minimum of protein (hitting 40-50 on average)
- Red meat daily or every other day including my grass-fed protein to avoid postnatal depletion
Here are my top tips to help reach your daily intake goals:
1. Break your fast with a minimum of 30 grams of protein before 11am. With a newborn schedule, it's easy to let busy mornings get away from us and not have a proper meal until noon rolls around, leaving us hangry, exhausted, and ready to reach for just about anything to satisfy our hunger (and it's often something that is sugar/carb-heavy and low in protein leading to a spike in blood sugar and sugar-induced cravings and an afternoon crash).
Pushing breakfast back or skipping it entirely can lead to low energy levels, poor decisions around food later on, and make it more difficult to get in the necessary protein you need throughout the day. If you're not a big breakfast eater or you find yourself short on time, I suggest introducing Fab 4 smoothies into your morning routine. Fab 4 smoothies are convenient way to to get in over 30 grams of protein to keep blood sugar levels in check, keep you satiated, and supply you with energy and cognitive function supporting foods. And with a variety of Fab 4 flavor combinations, you'll never get bored with your morning ritual. Check out my current go-to polyphenol-rich postpartum Fab 4 smoothie here.
2. Have high protein snacks and treats on hand. When you're looking to hit your protein and energy intake needs postpartum, high-protein snacks are a great option to get in extra calories and protein in while keeping your blood sugar balanced in between meals. Breastfeeding moms know the increased hunger levels you experience, so I like to be prepared with Fab 4 snacks when the cravings hit. It's better to have a plan of action rather than push off the cravings until you can no longer resist. Instead, make a batch of something sweet and something savory, and keep your pantry stocked with high protein grab-n-go options!
3. Include a complete protein source at each meal. To reach your daily protein intake goals, it is important to include a complete protein source at each meal, aiming for a minimum of 30 grams split between 3-5 meals. When I am looking for a protein source, I want to ensure it complete with all nine essential amino acids, along with other critical nutrients to help my body heal postpartum. I encourage new moms to prioritize animal protein throughout postpartum (and beyond) as the nutrients, including iron, Choline, and zinc, are more bio-available. Some of my favorite nutrient-dense postpartum protein sources include:
- Grass-fed beef and plant-based protein powder
- Grass-fed beef
- Force of Nature Ancestral Blends (code Kelly10 gets you 10% off your first order)
- Pasture-raised eggs
*I share why I cut out dairy three weeks prior to giving birth and how I will reintroduce it back into my diet in about three weeks here.
4. Prep your Protein. Mornings always tend to be a mad house with a newborn, but I've found that if I am already in the kitchen prepping school lunches and getting my own breakfast ready, I can just as easily use this time to set my oven to 400 degrees, throw some different protein options on a sheet pan with a little olive oil or avocado oil, top it with my favorite seasoning blend, and after 20 minutes in the oven - they are done! You can even throw some chicken in the slow cooker if you have to.
Here's What I Do:
- I butterfly Pasture Bird chicken breasts for a quick and even cook (use code BEWELLBYKELLY at checkout for a discount).
- I use stainless steel baking sheets to avoid exposure to notorious chemicals in cookware products like BPA, fragrances, and flame retardants - which are known to interact with our endocrine systems.
- I use If You Care pre-cut parchment sheets so I don’t need to cut them or mess with it.
- I always remove fish skin before storing in Pyrex Home to prevent a fishy smell.
- I store extra protein in my fridge for 3-4 days (if they last).
Now I have three-four days of protein prepped to mix and match with veggies for lunch or dinner. Depending on the protein, you can repurpose them into fish or chicken tacos, Buffalo Ranch Chicken Boals, or mix with curry veggies to make weeknight dinners in 15 minutes! Having protein prepped and ready to go will save you so much time, money, and energy in the long run when you’re looking to throw together a quick, nutritious lunch or dinner.
#2: Increase Veggie Intake
Just like protein, most of the time we have great intentions to eat a variety of vegetables but we skip the one step that increases the likelihood of making this happen: WE DON'T PREP THEM! Then, we’re running late from a sport or the day gets away from us and it feels like a lot to make a homemade meal. But if our veggies can be easily thrown on a sheet tray, sautéed in a pan, or dropped onto a bed of lettuce and there is already protein prepped in the fridge… EVERYTHING CHANGES. I spend 20 minutes 1-2x times a week doing what I call ‘meal prep light’ after a weekly grocery shop to prep my veggies for the week. This habit has made a huge difference in how my whole family eats throughout the week, both in reaching getting in enough protein and increasing the nutrient density of our meals.
- After grocery shopping, wash and chop your fruits and veggies and store them in glass containers.
- If you have older veggies, now is a great time to throw them on a sheet pan to roast with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Wash lettuce or any greens in the salad spinner and store in the fridge.
- Make a batch of homemade dressing you can use all week long. Try out this salad dressing hack to get pourable salad dressing from the fridge without any seed oils.
Now, my salads have 10x the variety and my meals are more often than not homemade. Making slow home-cooked meals is something I’ve always loved, and am now taking full advantage of during my maternity leave. I’m able to spend more time in the kitchen, recipe test with my boys, play and eat from my garden, and create delicious home-cooked Fab 4 Meals that are full of flavor.
Prioritizing home-cooked meals is the best way to eat the right portions of clean protein, fat, fiber, and greens to help your body heal more efficiently during the postpartum period. And the beauty of the Fab 4 method is that you can still be creative in the kitchen while also stabilizing blood sugar levels, regulating hunger hormones, fueling focus, accessing energy, curbing cravings and shedding excess pounds.
Here’s some Fab 4 meals in my weekly rotation:
Breakfast: I love serving up pancakes or waffles to my kids on the weekend but I’m always looking for ways to increase the protein, fat, and fiber (3 components of the Fab 4 - I talk about in my books) of my meals to ensure we don’t end up on a blood sugar roller coaster and crash into an emotional meltdown. You can find my Fab 4 protein pancake recipe here.
We also love Birch Benders grain free mix, Wild Rye and Sweet Laurel Bakery for the boxed variety. With the boxes I have been known to add a few tablespoons of my protein or an extra egg, but I also always add chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp hearts, or a little Psyllium husk to increase the fiber content and slow down the digestion. This avoids high spikes and hard crashes that result in more carbohydrate cravings and elevated blood sugar throughout the day.
Lunch: I am all for easy-to-prepare lunches that are big on nutrition, taste and help keep your blood sugar balanced all afternoon. I’ve got three recipes below that I make on repeat and the leftovers can easily become a toddler lunch or protein rich snack. You can also find the full recipes on Instagram or head over to nowfoods.com/experts.
Dinner: I've been incorporating more liver into my dinner recipes using Force of Nature Meats. While breastfeeding, this nutrient-dense protein source will supercharge your milk supply with neuro-supportive nutrients for you and your growing baby. My homemade liver meatball recipe is loaded with Iron, Choline, Vitamin B12, DHA, and Vitamin D to support proper fetal development and help with postpartum recovery. With this recipe you won't even realize you're eating organ meats.
If I am making this recipe, I'll usually make a large batch to serve up all week so I can easily incorporate healing nutrients into my diet. I just throw these on top of a salad, heat them up with my favorite pasta sauce & zoodles, or dip them in ketchup and mustard as a bridge snack. (Use code KELLYSFAVORITES for 15% off your order of $40 on my favorite condiments from Primal Kitchen).
#3: Postpartum Supplement Stack
Lastly, don't forget about those vitamins and minerals! Micronutrients are crucial in helping macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats) complete important bodily functions including muscle synthesis, metabolism function, and immune health. Unlike macronutrients, which make up a majority of our diet, micronutrients are only needed in small quantities. For the average individual eating a well-rounded diet, micronutrient deficiencies are rare. For postpartum mothers, however, nutrient deficiencies can become more common without proper supplementation.
According to one study, "Pregnant women did not increase their energy and nutritional intake during pregnancy and postpartum and they had a high risk of deficient intake of vitamin D, iron and folates during pregnancy, and therefore, of developing an unfavorable nutritional status, contrary to health recommendations." Although nutritional requirements increase during pregnancy and postpartum, many new moms tend to fall short on vitamin and mineral intake due to the high energy demand placed on the body while growing a baby and breastfeeding.
Key Nutrients for Postpartum Moms:
- Fat soluble vitamins - A, D, E and K
- The Bs! - B6, B12, folate, niacin and thiamine
- Pre- and probiotics
- Minerals like iron, zinc and magnesium
- Choline and long chain omega 3s!
- Electrolytes such as sodium and potassium
So in addition to obtaining these micronutrients with a well-rounded diet, I've made sure to stack my morning routine with my favorite supplements to ensure I am not missing the mark on nutrient status while breastfeeding.
Be Well Tip: How many times have you forgotten to take your supplements? You have them hidden in a cabinet or the day gets away from you and you can't be bothered to swallow a bunch of pills. The postpartum period is not a time when you want to slip up on your supplement routine. Placing my supplements next to my blender reminds me to never miss a day and doing it first thing in the morning keeps me consistent.
My Morning Supplement Stack:
- Drink LMNT: Being properly hydrated has made a huge difference in my response to glucose, energy levels, and focus throughout the day. I don’t get caffeine headaches, I don’t crave sugar, and I feel energized to workout even without the caffeine. Especially now that I am starting to incorporate hot yoga back into my routine, I want to ensure I am replenishing not only the fluids lost during a sweaty workout, but those important minerals, such as sodium, magnesium, and potassium that help with muscle contractions, breast milk supply, and more. I don’t leave home without my LMNT, and it’s in every travel bag I have! Head to drinklmnt.com/Kelly for a free sample pack with your order - grapefruit will be selling out soon so snag it while you can!
- We Natal Prenatal and Omega-3's: Your prenatal needs don’t stop once baby is born. In fact, a high-quality prenatal is just as important postpartum to ensure you're replenishing your own nutrient status and helping with the healthy development of your growing baby. My #1 recommended prenatal supplement is WeNatal both before, during, and after pregnancy. They have created a prenatal supplement with comprehensive formulas backed by the latest science and research. Plus, with only three capsules, WeNatal makes it easy to stay consistent with a supplement routine to meet the correct nutrient quality and quantity needed throughout your fertility journey. I'm also including WeNatal's Omega DHA+ in my supplement routine, which offers a therapeutic dose of 600 mg of DHA and 120 mg of EPA with no artificial additives, flavors, or colors, offering a natural and safe choice for supplementation. Learn more about why We Natal is my #1 recommended prenatal supplement and it's benefits here.
- Seed Probiotics: Your gut microbiome can undergo a lot of change throughout pregnancy, leading to digestive issues postpartum. Although increasing your fiber intake can help relieve certain digestive issues, the root cause of these issues is often more complex. I've been using Seed's probiotic supplement, a 2-in-1 capsule that feeds the good gut bacteria, helps strengthen gut lining, and improve gut immune health. I've personally had so much success with Seed for improvement in stool quality, increased mobility and decreased intestinal permeability - and code BEWELLBYKELLY gets you 20% off your first month!
- Now Foods Official Vitamin Mega D3/K2: Even with adequate time spent in the sun, I've been taking a Vitamin D3 supplement to provide support for immunity, mood, brain, and bone health, and glucose metabolism. Research also shows that "high dose maternal vitamin D supplementation (4000-6400 IU/d or a single monthly dosage of 150,000 IU) can enrich breast milk adequately for infants." Prenatals typically do not provide sufficient levels of these nutrients, so taking an additional supplement is a great way to ensure you are getting enough*. Now Foods is a quality pharmaceutical grade, USA-based supplement company family owned and operated for over 50 years, a partner for over 5 years and who I trust for my every day, supplements and fibers, like vitamin D3, Psyllium husk, Inulin etc. Use the code KELLY for 20% off your orders at nowfoods.com.
I share all my favorite prenatals, the proper forms of vitamins and amounts you should be getting, and recommendations for pregnancy nutrition in my Fab 4 Pregnancy course. *Before taking any supplements, consult a physician for a thorough evaluation and personalized recommendations.
8 Week Postpartum Update
After following my own advice for the past eight weeks, here’s how I feel…
Better than I have in years, stronger even without being cleared to lift (my PT even said he noticed a major difference since my 3rd trimester), have better digestion, and zero cravings - I am still enjoying half a bar of Hu salty dark chocolate at night (no restricting here). When you're trying to lose weight, a lot of people assume you have to drastically cut calories and eliminate all of your favorite foods. But that's quite the opposite with the Fab 4 method. I'm still enjoying all the foods I love, I am just plating the Fab 4 and eating/meeting my protein goals DAILY.
I hated feeling weak, getting sick easily, having broken hair and feeling like I was giving away my vitality while breastfeeding. I REFUSE to get postnatal depletion this time, so I committed to eating like a boss.
NOT LESS. PLEASE HEAR ME, EATING LOADS MORE. I'm shifting my focus to how can I add to my plate rather than what can I take away. And the payoff is exponentially better.
I'm clear-headed even with newborn sleep, energetic and so happy. I am taking on my core habits, bringing them back one at a time as I feel motivated. The only thing I committed to before being cleared to work out and my 40th birthday was to eat enough and enjoy being with my boys in my kitchen. I am not at my normal weight, I am in no rush to snap back. I trust my body and the habits and tools I have used with clients for years.
If you need help, I launched my 20 page Healthy Habits Guide that outlines what I do with clients, the habits I suggest, and my personal non-negotiables. It’s live on the site to keep you on track with your wellness goals and help you feel your best from the inside out. You also can keep up with my postpartum journey @bewellbykelly on Instagram.